Saline solution mistakenly administered instead of COVID-19 vaccine in St. Thomas: SWPH

FILE. The Canadian Press file

Southwestern Public Health says up to six people may have received a dose of saline solution instead of a COVID-19 vaccine at its mass vaccination clinic in St. Thomas, Ont., on Nov. 30.

The health unit says 257 people attended the clinic that day but only a maximum of six people received the saline. However, the health unit is not sure which six individuals are impacted.

“Everyone was counselled by registered nurses and advised they could, if they wished, receive another dose of vaccine out of an abundance of caution.  The minimum interval between doses was 21 days,” a statement from the health unit said.

A health unit spokesperson said many of the people they contacted were confident they received the vaccine because they had side effects similar to their previous doses, while others are opting to be revaccinated.

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The health unit has said they do not believe there are any adverse side effects from getting another booster shot – the 21-day interval is an additional precaution.

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A spokesperson said SWPH has called or has attempted to call all 257 individuals. All those who attended were over 12 and while there’s no breakdown of age available, based on the date it’s believed many of them were over 70.

In a statement, SWPH chief nursing officer Jaime Fletcher said the health unit “worked closely with Public Health Ontario to investigate a dispensing error at its St. Thomas mass immunization clinic on November 30.”

“Up to 6 individuals (approximately 2% of those seen in the clinic on that day) may have received a dose of saline solution – which is a mixture of water and salt often used in medicine – instead of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Fletcher said in the statement.

“Saline solution is not harmful to humans. This was due to a human error. No children under the age of 11 were affected.”

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The health unit is working to identify those who may have received the saline solution and to notify them.

“We acknowledge the stress this will cause individuals vaccinated on November 30 at the St. Thomas clinic. Please be assured that this matter was identified quickly and is an isolated incident. Those affected are being contacted with further instructions.”

Southwestern Public Health added that it took “immediate steps” to review its practices to make sure this never happens again. However, the health unit has not stated how the error occurred in the first place or how it was discovered.

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